The Sony Alpha A37 is a standard DSLR body, though slightly smaller than similar models from competing manufacturers. It features a mostly plastic shell, with a rubberized grip and an angled thumb rest on the back of the body. The material has been changed slightly from the A35, giving it a more plush feel. On the top of the camera sits several control buttons, along with the shutter button and the mode dial. On the back of the camera is a four-way control pad, with several common camera functions mapped to each direction. The left side of the camera also houses the input/output ports, with room made for HDMI, mini-USB, and mic ports. There's also a programmable function button, as well as an articulating LCD with a side-facing hinge.
Like other Sony SLT interchangeable lens cameras (they're not technically DSLRs in the strictest sense of the word), the A37 features an electronic viewfinder, which is housed on the top of the camera along with the built-in flash. On the whole, the A37 handles well, though the buttons and controls all feel a little on the chintzy side compared to higher end models.
The Sony Alpha A37 features a menu system similar to that which is found on all of Sony's other DSLRs. It's organized into tabs along the top of the screen, with several pages making up most of each page. You can scroll quickly between individual pages and tabs with the control dial, making it easy to navigate the entire menu. The menu is accessed by a dedicated button just behind the mode dial on the left side of the top plate of the camera.
The Sony Alpha A37 is designed to aid beginners who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of more advanced photography. As such, most of the camera's controls feature clear labels that don't rely on the common symbols of other cameras. The A37 also features quite a bit of in-camera help to aid the transition from standard point and shoots to more advanced DSLRs.
These features include a new superior auto mode which will apply some tricks to enhance images, while the camera will also sport Sony's new auto portrait framing mode. That mode recognizes faces and crops the image down, producing a new image of the same resolution as the original, but with framing that better coincides with photography composition rules. Also included are the in-camera shooting tips that Sony has put on many of their cameras recently, and the usual complement of scene and automatic exposure modes.
The Sony A37 is compact by DSLR standards, though it's still a boxy design that will take up plenty of room in a bag. The only significant change from the A35 to the A37 in terms of design is the enhanced grip. The grip now features a more plush material, in line with what is found on the A77 and NEX-7 models, that has more give than previous models. It still is easy to grip, though, and complements the light weight of the camera, as well. It's got a contoured shape, with your index and middle fingers easily finding a home to keep the camera in hand.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A37's mode dial has all the usual PASM modes, as well as shooting options for video, a 7FPS continuous mode, auto, superior auto+, 3D, sweep panorama, no flash, and scene modes. The mode dial has just enough resistance on it to protect from accidental switches, though it's out of the way enough that this is rarely a problem.
The Sony A37 has two main automatic modes (in addition to the standard program auto mode). The basic automatic mode will adjust exposure automatically to compensate for brightness in the scene. This is a pretty standard mode found on just about every DSLR. The A37 also features superior auto+, a separate auto mode that recognizes conditions in the frame and picks a specific scene mode to compensate.
The Sony A37 features a movie mode that is nearly the same as last year's A35, save for the addition of a 1080/24p mode in addition to the 1080/60i resolution option that was already available. The camera can shoot in either AVCHD or .MP4 video, though, depending on whether you need to maintain quality or have an easy-to-edit compression format.
The A37 can utilize phase detection autofocus while recording video—a big plus over other non-Sony DSLRs—while also featuring a mic input and (by virtue of its SLT technology) focus peaking that makes manual focusing during video a breeze.
The Sony A37 doesn't get an upgrade over the A35 in the speed department, featuring the same 5.5FPS continuous shooting speed at full resolution. If you're willing to bump resolution down to 8.4 megapixels, the mode dial features a dedicated high-speed tele-zoom mode that allows you to get a little extra zoom power, upping speed to a full 7FPS.
The Sony Alpha A37 has a dedicated playback mode button on the back of the camera, just below the rear control pad. The camera allows for a full view of an image's information, including histograms. In addition, you can zoom in on a specific image up to 11.8x or zoom out to see an indexed view of multiple images at once. There are also options for slideshow playback, and playing back movies, as well as the usual options for protection and deletion.
The Sony Alpha A37 maxes out at 16 megapixels, with the maximum image resolution weighing in at 4912x3264. In addition, the camera includes options for 8.4 and 4-megapixel 3:2 images, as well as 14, 7.1, and 3.4-megapixel 16:9 images. The A37 captures JPEG and RAW images, with options for 3D and panoramic images, too.
The A37 features the same 15-point autofocus sensor that's found on the A35, but with some key differences. It's still got 3 cross-type sensitive sensors, but the camera now allows for both manual focus peaking (with control over type and sensitivity) as well as zonal autofocus. The camera also now features subject tracking AF, which is very useful when shooting action photography. Like all other Sony SLT cameras, the A37 can use phase-detection autofocus even while recording video and shooting in live view.
The Sony Alpha A37 has an upgraded metering system from the A35, sporting a 1200-zone system as opposed to the 49-zone system on the A35.. The system is still sensitive from -2 to 17 EV, but it now has a few new tricks up its sleeve. The main one comes in the way of face detection with registration and selection, letting you prioritize faces in the frame. The system is otherwise the same, though it benefits from an extra bit of ISO sensitivity due to the new image sensor.
The A37 has an ISO range of 100-16000 available to it, with it able to reach all the way to 25600 in multi-frame noise reduction mode. ISO 16000 is a bit higher than what some of the A37's competition offers, but as it's not a full stop over the usual 12800 setting, it's not something to lend too much extra weight to.
When shooting in a variety of lighting conditions, you invariably have to account for various color temperatures. The A37 accomplishes this via the usual method, with custom and automatic white balance complemented by various white balance presets available to the user. These presets include daylight, shade, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, flash, color filters, and custom kelvin temperature entry.
The Alpha A37 uses image sensor shift stabilization, in line with other SLT cameras from Sony. This means that your image will be stabilized regardless of what lens you attach to the camera (even older Minolta lenses). Sony claims as much as 4 stops of improved sharpness out of the camera, though we typically see less of an improvement under our lab conditions.
As with the A35, the A37 features 7 types of picture effects, with 11 total variations, allowing you to alter your image in a variety of ways. The picture effects include posterization, pop color, retro, partial color, high contrast monochrome, toy camera, soft high-key, soft focus, HDR painting, and miniature.
The Sony A37 features a Sony Alpha A lens mount, compatible with Minolta and Sony lenses, as well as a variety of adapters. The camera has a new 16-megapixel EXMOR image sensor, with an ISO range of 100-16000 (expandable to 25600 with multi-frame noise reduction).
The rear display on the A37 is actually a lower spec than the A35, surprisingly. The 920k-dot display has now become just a 230k-dot display, and it's shrunk from three inches down to 2.6. It's a bit of a surprise, though it may be a cost-saving move by Sony. The 230k-dot display isn't terrible, but it's a step down from the higher resolution displays from last year.
The A37 has a 0.46'' LCD electronic viewfinder, with 1.44 million dot resolution. The EVF has 100% coverage with an eyepoint of approximately 19mm. It is actually fairly good, as far as electronic viewfinders go, though it lags a bit compared to the Sony Alpha A77.
The A37 features a built-in flash with a guide number of 10 meters at ISO 100. That puts it around average as far as built-in flashes go. The camera does feature flash exposure compensation (at +/- two stops), with red-eye reduction available if you're taking photos of people. If you want to use external optional flashes, the camera is compatible with Sony Alpha strobes, with wireless control and high-speed flash sync also available.
The left side of the A37 has several ports behind small rubber flaps. The ports include a standard mini-USB input/output, HDMI output, and a mic input. Next to that the A37 also provides a remote terminal port, something that isn't always found on other entry-level DSLRs. Either way the standardization is a nice touch.
The A37 uses a typical FW50 battery from Sony. It's a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery that is removable from the body. It slots into a dedicated compartment on the bottom of the camera, within the grip itself. The battery is rated to approximately 500 shots by CIPA standard when using the rear LCD display, though that drops to 450 when using the viewfinder standard.
The Sony A37 can make use of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, in addition to Sony's own proprietary MemoryStick Pro Duo and HG-Pro Duo cards. The cards slot into a dedicated compartment on the bottom of the camera. While this surely saves space (rather than putting it into the battery compartment), it's location on the bottom still prevents hot-switching while the camera is on a tripod plate.
The Sony Alpha A37 is a fairly standard upgrade for the company's entry-level SLT DSLR lineup. It replaces the A35 with some basic upgrades to control, a new image sensor, but a largely unchanged design.
The A37 is aimed largely at beginners, with most of its features designed for those adapting to DSLRs from point and shoots. The highlight feature is the auto portrait framing mode, which will automatically crop your portraits shots to better highlight your subject according to standard rules of photographic composition.
Shooting with the A37 feels much like shooting with the A35; it's a compact DSLR that features fast autofocus (even while recording video), with a plush grip, but an overall lightweight feel. The articulating LCD allows you to capture from tough angles, while the electronic viewfinder functions well in most environments.
Choosing the Sony A37 over competing options like the Nikon D3100 and Canon T3 largely comes down to a decision for speed versus the comfort of an optical viewfinder. The A37's 5.5fps full resolution burst is well ahead of the Nikon and Canon options, but the electronic viewfinder still isn't as nice as an optical option.
Despite this, we enjoyed shooting with the A37, and find it a rather simple camera for beginners to adapt to. With its beginner-friendly modes, superior auto exposure, and simple menu design the A37 presents a fairly low learning curve. It's a design that shouldn't intimidate, even if it's mostly unchanged from last year's A35.
Overall, we definitely wouldn't suggest upgrading from the A35 to the A37—the benefit just isn't there—but we would say that it has enough about it that it's worth some serious consideration for anyone looking for a good sub-$800 DSLR with more speed than most.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.See all of TJ Donegan's reviews
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